River Congo-Chambeshi

congo-riverWhen we talk about the greatness of a river, we mostly talk about its length. What about the depth?…the Congo-Chambeshi, also called Congo-Chambezi, is the deepest river in the world. Some of the deepest sections of the Congo-Chambeshi reach up to a depth of 720 feet.

It is also amazingly long. In fact, it is the ninth longest river in the world, flowing through ten countries within its drainage basin. With its source in North-East Zambia, it rises from the mountains as a stream and collects water along its course, until it drains to the Atlantic Ocean. It has one of the largest drainage basins in the world, with an area of about 3,680,000 square kilometres. This wide drainage basin lies on both sides of the equator, to the North and South, stabilizing the flow of water through the channel since at least one part of the latitude has a rainy season.

According to ancient historical facts and information, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo had ancient kingdoms that thrived by deriving their livelihood from the mouth of this river. They called it River Zaire.

With its immense tributaries, the Congo forms a dense rainforest like the Amazon of South America. This rainforest is an important water catchment area and source of other rivers in Central and Western Africa.

One feature of the Congo-Chambechi River is its ability to recharge wetlands and flood plains. Its waters flow through the Bangweulu swamp Lake and wetlands supporting the ecosystem with its rich silt. The swamp water comes out from the swamp in the Luapula River and flows further downstream. At this stage, the river course comprises canals and wide marshes that form mazes. The widest sections of the river are about 100 meters on deep ends followed by about 400 meters of wide, shallow flood.

The ease of navigability of the Congo-Chambeshi is not a common characteristic amongst African rivers. Not to say that it is completely free from cataracts, silt, waterfalls and water plants, but its channel has some of the longest parts that can allow continuous navigation. Its numerous tributaries form Africa’s greatest network of navigable rivers using large river steamers. The presence of a series of cataracts in its lower course limits the ability to explore the full course of the river up to the head of the Congo estuary.

Being such a powerful river, West African countries have found an opportunity to harvest large amounts of hydroelectric power especially during the rainy season. The Congo basin has sufficient water volumes to supply the entire sub-Saharan region without any constrains, a potential that West Africa has yet to exploit. Tapping the full potential of the Congo-Chambeshi will probably solve all the power deficiency problems in the areas through which its water flows, and boost the economy alongside the living standards of Central and West Africa.

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